Ginned up

I post or tweet from time to time about alcohol, but in truth I don’t really drink much. I’m a lightweight, and I don’t enjoy the sensation of being drunk, so rather than drinking to get wasted, I only drink things I enjoy the taste of — which, actually, isn’t all that much. I’m not a fan of tequila’s flavor; vodka has no flavor unless it’s the really cheap stuff (in which case the flavor is terrible) or some gimmick brand (in which case no thanks); and to my sense of smell and taste, beer ranks among the worst things on the planet. I do enjoy red wine, though a single glass of it makes me impossibly sleepy, and bourbon and scotch can be great but feel like they require a commitment — they hit hard and sit heavy.

So, I’ve gradually come to realize that what I really enjoy is gin. It’s light, it doesn’t make me feel like my body’s been weighted down the next morning, and its emphasis on assorted herbs and botanicals hits on the earthy notes I’ve discovered I prefer in my drinks. Oaky wines, peaty scotches, and gins heavy on the juniper or pine are my preference — which, based on my attempts to share gin with others, is precisely what people hate about gin. Oh well.

It took me a while to realize that gin can be every bit as interesting, subtle, and varied a drink as bourbon, because most places just stock middling stuff. Beefeater or standard Tanqueray, maybe Tanqueray 10 if I’m lucky, but rarely anything more adventurous than Hendrick’s. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn more about gin on my own, because that’s what I do. I take an interest in stuff, get way too involved, and then 30 years later I’m traveling around the world to write about video games.

Since everyone I normally spend time with here at home shudders in disgust at gin, or at least tolerates it with bemusement while eyeing the whiskey bottle over on the bar, I’ll share my findings with you. Currently I have six different gins on my home bar, which is a lot! It’s going to take me the better part of a year  to get through them all at the rate I drink. But I wanted to try some less common varieties, and I’m enjoying the process of slowly getting a sense of the surprising depth and variety of gin. I will… write about them. Because that’s also what I do.

We’ll start with the one I’m having the hardest time wrapping my head around: G’Vine Floraison.


I feel like I should really like Floraison, because it combines two of the few alcohol types I actually like: Gin and wine. Normally gin is distilled from grain, but this one’s made with grapes, so I had high hopes for it. It didn’t quite deliver. Make no mistake, it’s not bad — it’s far too inoffensive for that — but it lacks what I like about gin, which is that distinct, earthy, herbal taste.

Floraison, perhaps unsurprisingly, tastes a fair bit like white wine. More like grappa, I guess; it lacks the sweetness of wine, and instead has a sharp edge to its flavor. The bottle shows off all the herbs, fruits, and spices that comprise its mash:


…but I don’t really taste any them. Even a mundane dry gin like Beefeater has a strong juniper flavor, but there’s none of that here. If I had to describe Floraison’s flavor profile, I guess I would call it “angry grape.”

Unfortunately, I’ve had a hard time finding a use for it. Its lack of typical gin notes means it doesn’t work in standard gin cocktails. It doesn’t even work in a gin and tonic, where the tonic’s quinine complements the gin’s botanicals. It also fails to work well in cocktails that normally call for vodka, because it has too much grape about it. But it’s too strong and too sharp to work on its own, so to be completely honest I’d have to say this was a failed experiment. Fortunately, the other gins I’ve gambled on have yielded better results.


About the only role I’ve been able to find for Floraison is in a Tom Collins. It doesn’t really taste like a Tom Collins, but “angry grape hard lemonade” is acceptable in a pinch, I suppose.

If anyone has any suggestions on recipes that might work with this exasperating liquor, I’m all ears.

6 thoughts on “Ginned up

  1. I’m a beer man; can’t say I’ve ever had good gin, but it’s quite possible that I’ve just never been anywhere that was offering the good stuff. I’ll keep it in mind in case anybody ever offers; I’m not much of a liquor drinker but I do enjoy a nice scotch a few times a year.

  2. Last year I worked at a very short lived restaurant in Philadelphia whose bar program focused heavily on gin. I’m pretty sure that at our peak we had over a hundred varieties. Some were great, some were bad and most were just fine. As a whiskey drinker, I found that I enjoyed our handful of barrel aged gins the most. The best of them had the complex botanicals that a good gin will have, but with an added smokiness from having been aged in bourbon barrels. You could make a fantastic Martinez with those things. If you see it, I recommend checking out local favorite Bluecoat Barrel aged.
    Gin is great, and I think its time as the hot spirit will eventually come.

  3. Great post – I’ve been getting into gin over the last few years, though my mixes probably aren’t too adventurous – I enjoy a gin + tonic, and am also partial to a Negroni. I’m a bit like you in that I’m a light weight and don’t enjoy feeling drunk, so I like to focus more on the taste rather than quantities of alcohol I know I can’t handle. I think it’s interesting when looking at the nuances in spirits though as I generally think of that as being more of a wine thing, but that’s because I drink more wine than spirits I guess!

  4. I’m not very adventurous in my gin selections, but here’s a recipe from a local place that might compliment the grape notes:

    watershed four peel gin (well, what they use)
    orange curacao
    fresh lime juice
    simple syrup (or maybe muddle a sugar cube)
    orange bitters
    angostura bitters

    Maybe yank out the lime juice with the flavors you described

  5. You can’t be any more lightweight than me when it comes to alcohol consumption. I guess you got the dislike of beer from me. What I found I like is Zombie Killer mead, which is hard to find and normally pricier than I want to go. (It is hard to find in Michigan and this is where it is made) After going to a honey festival, I discovered I like some of the meads made locally. Must be ’cause they are sweeter.
    I like the bottle the gin comes in. Don’t toss it when you are finished with it and I will take it, if you can’t find another use for it. I know, I am such a goof.

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